Published on: July 26, 2011by Michael Sansolo
While life is far from perfect in our modern world, it’s simply amazing how easy some things have become. The problem is, we don’t always see that. Imagine for a second that you have to go a full day without your cell phone, your high-speed Internet connection or, heaven forbid, air conditioning during this summer especially. Life would suddenly feel a whole lot different wouldn’t it?
Yet it’s hard to break away from the every day and see things differently—say, look at a modern supermarket the way our shoppers see it. We see them as a paragon of modern convenience, with a perfect layout, ease of shopping and all the right messages coming through. But shopper experiences and perspectives can be very different and sometimes we need to look through their eyes.
Last week I had a chance to experience how expectations have changed something I experience regularly. It happened far from a supermarket, but I think the lesson holds up.
As readers of this column know, I love baseball and (like Kevin) make it a point to get to games whenever my travel schedule allows it. While I love many modern baseball stadiums, I don’t always like the experience. To attract less knowledgeable fans to a game many believe drags on far too long, stadiums have added all kinds of distractions. These days, video screens show replays and comedy routines. There are all manner of contests among fans. There are t-shirt cannons, “kiss” cameras, children running the bases and special mascots racing around the outfield.
Despite myself, I’m something of a baseball snob looking at such events and asking why we can’t watch a simple game. But we really can’t anymore.
Last week I watched the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play in their 50-year-old stadium that now is one of the sport’s five oldest and I found myself missing the trappings of newer stadiums. From my seat I could watch the game wonderfully, but I couldn’t find the endless array of information that comes in newer parks. I couldn’t easily keep track of each player’s performance that night; couldn’t quickly track scores from around the league; and couldn’t learn the speed and type of pitch being thrown.
So what does a 78-mile per hour change up have to do with stores? I’d suggest everything.
Like it or not, our customers have grown accustomed to a whole range of new “givens” in their lives. They know they can find even the most obscure piece of information on Google or the most unpopular product on Amazon. They can be dazzled by countless store at the mall or endlessly entertained at the local ballpark. So what happens at the supermarket?
Well, the foods are stunning and the stores nicer than ever, but there are shortcomings. Most supermarkets I visit fail to give me the information I need about new produce items, such as what they taste like, how to serve them and how to pick one properly. On Google I’m a master of the information universe; at the mango display, I’m lost.
We need to remember that our shoppers come armed with their collection of experiences and expectations from every place they shop. Whether it’s the fashion-laden offerings of clothing stores or even the cool vibe of an Apple store—it’s all in their minds when they walk in our doors. Like it or not we compete with all those experiences daily because like it or not, that’s what they now expect.
One more thing to worry about.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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